- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Joe Gibbs didn’t make his final decision to retire as president and coach of the Washington Redskins until late Monday night during a meeting with owner Dan Snyder that began over dinner and extended past 2 a.m. yesterday.

But clearly the seeds of doubt already had been planted in the 67-year-old’s head.

Ever since his then 2-year-old grandson Taylor was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2007, more than just football occupied Gibbs’ mind. A devout family man, Gibbs started to realize there were more important things to attend to than the Redskins.

When safety Sean Taylor was killed six weeks ago, Gibbs began speaking about the importance of family and faith over football. And as he prepared for the franchise’s biggest game in years — a Week 17 showdown against the Dallas Cowboys with a playoff berth on the line — he took it a step further.

In an online testimonial posted on his personal Web site the final week of December, Gibbs provided an inkling of what was to come.

“Many times for me, I’ve had the wrong priorities in life,” he said. “Where should our profession be? I think it should be third in our life. First should be God and my relationship with him. Second should be my family and the influence I’m having on others. And that puts our profession where? Third. Many times for me, I’ve had it out of place where it shouldn’t be. For me, it’s been a struggle.”

The final realization of all that occurred over the last three days, once Seattle eliminated the Redskins from the NFC playoffs and Gibbs at last had a chance to devote his entire focus on the future.

First, though, Gibbs felt an obligation to discuss the Redskins’ immediate future with Snyder. The two met Sunday not to discuss the coach’s pending retirement but the team’s plans for free agency. Gibbs later met with his entire roster but left most players with the impression he would be returning to finish his five-year contract, which had one more season remaining.

“I apologize to them for not being able to say something to all of them,” he said. “But at that point, I was not in any position where I felt like I was ready to say anything.”

Gibbs first wanted to meet with his family and discuss his options, so he flew to Charlotte, N.C., late Sunday and spent the evening talking to his wife, Pat, and sons J.D. and Coy. Once he got their blessing to retire, Gibbs boarded an airplane Monday and returned to Washington, confident in his final decision.

“At that point, when I started back to D.C. and got on the plane that afternoon, I kind of had a real strong feeling in my heart what I felt like I should do,” he said.

Gibbs still needed to talk to Snyder, though, so following a noncommittal press conference Monday afternoon in which he sidestepped questions about his plans, he joined his boss for a two-hour dinner at a Northern Virginia restaurant.

Though Snyder said “you’re never prepared” to receive that kind of news, he admitted he had a hunch what might be in the works.

“I knew,” Snyder said. “I know him so well. I could tell. I watched part of the press conference. I knew he was going through a lot.”

Still, Snyder tried to give it one last shot, attempting to convince Gibbs to return for one more season and guide the franchise through a Super Bowl run. Gibbs wouldn’t relent, and by the time the two finally went home around 2 a.m., they had reached an agreement.

“This is something that no one wanted to see happen, but all of us respected and understand,” Snyder said.

Both men insisted their professional and personal relationship won’t end over this. Gibbs will remain with the Redskins in a yet-to-be-determined advisory role, and he insisted yesterday he plans to spend a good amount of his time in the Washington area, though he won’t keep an office at Redskin Park.

“My main reason for stepping down is to make sure that I get to Charlotte and do the things I need to do with my family,” he said. “But to be quite truthful, I plan on being here a lot anyway. I feel like this is my home also.”

Gibbs’ retirement from football also offers him more time to spend running his NASCAR racing team. J.D. Gibbs continues to run most of Joe Gibbs Racing’s day-to-day operations, but Joe Gibbs is expected to increase his presence with the team.

“Obviously, it’ll be great to have him back here on a regular basis,” J.D. Gibbs said in a statement. “It’s a biased opinion because he’s my dad, but there’s so much that he brings to the table. He has such a gift for leading a team.”

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